Monday, September 23, 2013

Blog Question 8: Australia

Blog question 8: Australia has a complex government structure, and when governments change, top civil servants can often be changed as the new administration comes into power. Arguably, Australia also has an integrated national, state and city governance approach to urban development. Using infrastructure and development as an example, describe how these features influence urban land use in good and possibly bad ways.


  1. The 'trigger-happy' nature of Australian's political system and politicians can mean that the elected party is supported wholeheartedly and is able to push through development initiatives without too much fuss. However, it also means that experienced and talented individuals capable of serving their communities well can be sacrificed as political pawns. Similarly, the integration of different governmental levels means less delays in infrastructure development and implementation. This "get things done" approach can be either positive or negative - if these development policies are of a high quality, then great, but where these policies are hurried or not properly thought-out/researched, this can be destructive to the urban landscape.

    George Winship

  2. The eagerness of Australian politicians to interfere with the civil service means that the traditional, stable implementation of public projects and policies is made as chaotic and ephemeral as political change. This is particularly negative for long term infrastructure projects, such as highways and thermal generators, which require stable confidence to be constructed in a timely manner. However, it could be argued that political appointments are not nearly as influential in infrastructure and development matters as the integration of federal, state and city governance. Interference here is fundamental; the federal government earns the vast majority of tax revenues and so can choose to fund or not fund many state or city development projects. Through funding, much of state and city land use policies are at the mercy of federal politics.


    Podger, Andrew. (2004). Managing the interface with ministers and the Parliament. Retrieved from

    Stilwell, F. and Troy, P. (2000). Multilevel Governance and Urban Development in Australia. Urban Studies, 37(5), pp. 909-930.

    Tom Chi

  3. Australia has a government structure where the federal, state and city governance must be integrated to write policies regarding infrastructure and development, however the federal government controls most of the funding for infrastructure development allowing the elected political party to interfere. This can be beneficial as the party can push through for the quick implementation of policies. This is only beneficial though if thorough scientific research and public surveys have been carried out before writing the policies. Furthermore, since the elected party wields a lot of power, a change in government can mean that projects in development can get discarded and new projects can be started, leading to a loss of millions of dollars of tax money.

    Manasi Vaidya
    ID: 5985611

  4. The temperamental political system of Australia means that infrastructure and development projects can be interrupted and altered drastically when governments turn over. This would lead to a loss of money paid by residents, and could also cause confusion to employees working on projects. Moreover, a complete change in the administrative body contributes to Australia's integrated national, state and city governance approach to urban development. It means that the vision and purpose of the government is synchronised, which will bring unity to urban development initiatives and policies. The projects can be carried out at a faster pace, with more efficiency and support from residents who have voted for the new government.

    Angela Yang

  5. Australia’s government structure is known for experiencing fast turn overs in administration. Further, Australia has an integrated and cohesive national, state and city governance approach to urban development. Combined these two developments can have both positive and negative repercussions on urban land use and infrastructure projects. One negative aspect is that people that have been working on a certain project for years can be replaced by others overnight, which can alter or halt work dynamics, level of engagement and the overall successful implementation of the project. One positive aspect of the synchronised government approach is that it can deliver unified policies and set standards on the quality of projects, which in turn can improve urban land use across the nation as a whole, rather than separate segments of the country.

    Tsvetina Arabadzhieva
    ID: 5776692

  6. The erratic and complicated nature of the current political system is reflected in Australia’s development and maintenance of infrastructure. Melbourne’s East West link is an example of how quickly infrastructure can be developed with Abbott already funding $1.5 billion for it just months after elected, despite the link’s strong opposition. Infrastructure is a state level issue yet the completion of projects obviously rely on the Federal Government. The entirety of this issue spotlights the need for the balance between the efficiency of decision making and the ability to make the right decisions.

    Wright, J. (2013, September 27). Tony Abbott says he doesn't need to see the east-west link's full business case. Retrieved from The Age: Tony Abbott says he doesn't need to see the east-west link's full business case

  7. In Australia’s complex government structure and integrated governance approach we see infrastructure development at a State level. However due to the majority of funding for Australia’s infrastructure development originating from the federal government, this results in the completion of developments within States to rely on the Federal Government. Coupled with government changes in administration and civil servants, long-term development projects are at the mercy of an interchanging, unstable direction thus creating a chaotic process resulting in many of the States land use polices to change in favor to the changing federal politics. Examples of this are the interstate highway developments that would benefit from a stable planning approach, as they require long-term planning and development.

    John McCall

  8. The integrated nature of Australia's governance allows for a 'top-down' approach, meaning
    policies the federal government prescribes is then implemented at the state and city levels of governance. This approach, in theory, allows for more clarity in the objectives and intentions of policies supporting the successful implementation of these policies and in turn result in better urban development projects. However, there seems to be some disillusionment between federal government and state level government on who really has the decision making power. Feelings of disisatisifaction has grown within Central government in regards to how state level governments are dealing with urban development, specfically with the rate at which they provide infrastructure solutions to growing transport demands. Kevin Rudd proposed in his run for re-election in 2013 that a 'Minister of Cities' be enstated to bridge the gap between local and national governance. However, this raises doubts around whether Central government is intervening or interfering, and if an appropriate balance can ever be achieved.

    Also changing nature of the political climate also means that agenda's change and approaches to urban development and infrastructure changes, where a project undertaken during one governments tenure may end up finishing under the tenure of another, quite often leading to a result very different to what was intended.

  9. Australia manages its urban planning through co management of its federal, state and local government. The political parties that were elected have the most power in deciding implementation of urban policies. This is because the federal government holds the funding for projects.

    The advantage of the urban governing system of Australia is that elected parties can gather funding and implement their urban projects/policies in an efficient manner, therefore citizens is able to enjoy the benefits brought by new projects. But with the federal government having too much power in policies decisions, this may lead to insufficient evaluation of projects that leads to wrong decision making. Resulting implementation of projects or policies that harms the wellbeing of the society. In addition long term development projects such as railways and motorways can be overturned if new political party is elected, leading loss of money and time. This means that urban development direction can be constantly altered if political direction changes with election of new parties.

    William Xu (2975020)

  10. The commonwealth and state governments co-operate in many areas where states and territories are formally responsible such as education, health, law enforcement and transport. In the last ten years there has been a lot more emphasis on a centralized planning approach. This is reflected in state funding. Income tax is levied federally and funds are then allocated to states accordingly. This places limitations on state and local governments and the infrastructure projects they can undertake. Infrastructure Australia is a federal agency that plans and coordinates infrastructure projects across Australia, establishing funding priorities. Although such organizations greatly contribute to better infrastructure development outcomes, it can be argued that assistance is unequally distributed across Australia and decisions are at the whim of the political context of that moment. This leaves some states and local governments with a lack of funding to undertake infrastructure investments that they really need and want.

    Grace Wilson

    ID: 5798170

  11. In Australia the government has a complex structure, which is ever changing due to the regular fluctuation in the political system.
    Due to the changes the government faces, there are significant effects on infrastructure and development projects, where they are greatly altered and interrupted. Integration between the state and federal government is of optimum importance. The local government is responsible to take charge of infrastructure and development projects, however the federal government is the primary contributor with regard to the funding of such projects. Dependent upon who is in charge of decision making at the time, as well as the changes in administration and civil servants, long-term development projects often have a lack of direction and stability and policies associated to land use change along side them.

    Jared Bartlett


  12. Australia’s government structure is based on a federal system, in which powers are divided between the Commonwealth Government and the six state governments. The Commonwealth at the higher level generally manages the funding for state governments. Meanwhile, the state governments have got independent power to shape its local economic, social and ecological areas. For example, the states can decide what transportation modes will they prioritized for local area, which means infrastructure development can be implemented quite efficiently if the funding is promised by the Commonwealth.

    Since the existing state governments are quite powerful in strategic and infrastructure planning; therefore, the lack of specified guiding documents could easily produce instability when a new government come to power. For example, previous on-going road network projects might be delayed if the new government has a primary focus on train system.

    Li Tianhang

  13. Australia has a complex government structure that is broken down in three levels starting at Federal level then breaking down in to state or territory before decentralising further into local government. A hands on approach is often taken from central government in determining the actions of state or local development.
    Recently Tony Abbot recently changed federal funding from integrated railway projects and instead focussed these financial assets into increased roading projects, to the dismay of many, local constituents who suppoft further rail expansion. This hands on power has the ability to get things moving through layers of bureaucracy, but can conflict with local demands.

    Thomas Morrison

  14. Having such a complicated form of governance does not always mean that things get done easily. Federal hold the purse strings and set the overall political direction. State are responsible for a majority of elements that make cities and States tick, health, education, environmental protection, urban growth and planning, economic development. While Cities are required to put everything into action and humanize all of the policies, rules and regs. Good points things can get done quickly if everybody from top (Federal) to the bottom (Cities) are all heading in the same direction. Good for infrastructure development, economic development and housing. However when there is conflict with future direction this can be a problem. The Federal moving in a different direction to the State and City. State rights could be seen as being more important than Federal interests. Here in NZ an example of Federal and City is the Auckland Rail Loop. Auckland thinks it needs it, the Government recognises it could be needed but not for another 20 years or so.

    Leonie Mullions

  15. Urban Planning in Australia is managed through a unique method, which is, by its federal, local and state government. The 3 sets of governments must work collaboratively and efficiently as together they make policy regarding the urban environment and issues it wants to address. In saying this, each part of the government has its own duties and hierarchy. This means for example, a federal law may override any state law not consistent with it.The duties each government sector undertake are different. For example the state government are look after economic development, education and health care in Australia. The Federal Government is responsible for infrastructure, this make the state government rely on the federal for infrastructure issues that could be related to completion, funding and general efficiency.

    Zak Nasir

  16. The Australian government structure is very complex, as the federal, state and city government sectors must integrate with each other while making decisions and developing policies and regulations. This can be seen as beneficial as decisions are made under a balance of powers, and projects can be implemented at a quick pace. However, at the same time, the political party controls most of the government revenue which is the main source of funding that goes toward government projects. This means that a change in the administrators may lead to huge changes in current development projects, and this will especially affect long term infrastructure projects like building bridges and motorways, if these decisions are overturned a lot of time and money will be wasted, not to mention a lot of unneeded damage will have been done to the environment.

    Melissa Chen